ONEIL CRUZ, SHORTSTOP
|Born: October 4, 1998
Signed: Int’l Free Agent, 2015, Los Angeles Dodgers
How Acquired: Trade (with Angel German from the Dodgers for Tony Watson)
Country: Dominican Republic
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Cruz is a very tall infielder with plus raw power. He grew five inches in about a year prior to signing with the Dodgers. He has a long swing that leads to contact issues, but it’s hard to tell how he’ll turn out because he’s still so young. He seems unlikely to stay at short and may not be able to stay at third, either, although he has a very strong arm. The Pirates believe he’s athletic enough that he could conceivably stay at short, so they’re going to try him there at least for a while. They acquired him at the 2017 trade deadline for Tony Watson.
Cruz played mostly at third but started 13 games at short in the DSL. He hit well, for good gap power and with a good walk rate and passable K rate.
The Dodgers moved Cruz aggressively up to full-season ball, where he played the season at age 17. Overall, he struggled, which isn’t surprising given his age and experience. He did show a good deal of improvement after posting a dismal 133/189/169 line in April, and the power started to emerge. He had a lot of trouble with LHPs, putting up just a .504 OPS against them and .693 against RHPs. The Dodgers gave Cruz 46 starts at third and 30 at short. Again, not surprisingly, he had error problems at both positions. After the trade, the Pirates played him exclusively at third except for three innings at short. He committed eight errors in just 15 games at third. That left him with a cringeworthy .828 fielding percentage on the season. At the plate, he continued along the same lines, showing great power potential but struggling to put the bat on the ball.
Cruz returned to West Virginia and had a breakout season. He got off to a slow start, going 5-for-37 with 18 strikeouts in his first ten games. He then posted an OPS of .879 in May and 1.025 in June, before cooling off in July. Cruz missed most of August with a hip injury. He struck out once every three at-bats in April, but less than once every four and a half after that. He seems to have toned down but still hit for good power. He hammered LHPs for a 1.015 OPS, compared to .778 against RHPs. His play at short was a different matter, as he had 33 errors and didn’t show great range. At 6’6″ — and many people believe he’s actually an inch or two taller than that — he’s not likely to be able to move all that quickly, despite his athleticism. No observers outside the Pirates seem to believe he can stay at short.
Cruz has an extremely high ceiling but will always be considered high risk. He’ll play the 2019 season at age 20, which is a good age for high A. The immediate issue for the Pirates will be whether they should bow to the inevitable and move him to third.
|2019: Minor League Contract|
|Signing Bonus: $950,000
MiLB Debut: 2016
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: 2022
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: 2019
Added to 40-Man: N/A
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|July 2, 2015: Signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an international free agent.
July 31, 2017: Traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers with Angel German to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Tony Watson.